A year removed from playing for the Harlem High School Bulldogs, Josh Wirsu finds himself on junior college’s biggest stage.
Wirsu and his Gordon College (Barnesville, Ga.) teammates are in Grand Junction, Colo. prepping for the school’s first trip to the National Junior College World Series.
“I’ve never even dreamed of going to the World Series,” said Wirsu. “I thought maybe one day I could play in the SEC, ACC, go to the World Series and maybe one day get drafted and go pro and hopefully my team would go to the World Series.”
After beating Middle Georgia College for the East Central District title, on Monday, the Highlanders had just two days to get ready before flying to Colorado. After 12 hours of commuting, the team arrived in Grand Junction about 4 p.m. Thursday.
As well as the time difference, there are other things the team will have to get used to.
“We just went and ran and tried to get used to the altitude,” Wirsu said. “It’s different. I could run for days back home just because I’m used to it, lots of oxygen. Up here we ran two or three 100-yard jogs and you’re still out of breath.”
They have some time to adjust as they begin play in the double-elimination, 10-team tournament Sunday, May 27 against Shelton State Community College (Tuscaloosa, Ala.). The Highlanders enter as the nation’s No. 10-ranked team with a 36-23 record, facing the No. 9 Buccaneers who have a 38-21 record.
In his freshman year to date, Wirsu has a 3-3 record in 13 appearances while recording 30 strikeouts. He is scheduled to pitch the Highlanders’ third game at the recently-renovated Lincoln Sports Complex on Wednesday.
“The field is immaculate, it’s amazing,” Wirsu said. “We watched the grounds crew working on it, we were taking pictures. You look to your left it’s the Rocky Mountains, you look to your right there’s the Rocky Mountains. We’re kind of surrounded.”
Head coach Travis McClanahan has been impressed with what he’s gotten from his right-handed freshman.
“He’s been a big time part of our pitching rotation of our starters,” said McClanahan. “He’s a big reason we started winning. We struggled the first half of season. Josh is one of those pitchers who stepped up and started pitching so much better, so we knew we could put him on the mound for six or eight innings and we’d have a chance at winning while he was out there. That’s been a big part of our success, him pitching so well in the second half of the season.”
Wirsu wants to pitch well in the tournament, but wants the teams success ahead of his own, something he learned from Harlem baseball head coach Jimmie Lewis.
“He would teach humbleness and I was not a humble player when I first went to Harlem,” Wirsu said. “He kicked out the cockiness and kept in the confidence. He’s all about team, and now here, it’s all about team. I don’t care about individual stats.”
The game begins at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. To see the live stream of the game, go to: www.jucogj.org/tournament and click on live streaming.